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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

MFAI Director’s Blog – May 2011

As a farmer for the better part of twenty-five years and now Executive Director for Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, I am becoming increasingly concerned over what I perceive to be a push by the federal government, farm organizations, and private industry to bring more and more acres of farmland into production.  I realize the price of farm commodities is encouraging this approach and it is a little like throwing kerosene on a fire.  Commodity direct payments to farmers continue and with high priced commodities many farmers are concerned that consumers and taxpayers could begin to question why a government subsidy for landowners and farmers is needed.  I am also aware of the cycles which means a few years down the road prices may be at breakeven or below.  Farmers are also carrying an ever increasing amount of risk, but as I drive around the countryside of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin it is evident there continues to be a lot of work which still needs to be done to combat soil erosion.  Bringing more land, sometimes fragile land, into production won’t help ease the soil erosion problem.  It seems to me the future farm subsidy payments need to be strictly tied to installing measures to control erosion.  This will offer all taxpayers the most sensible form of supporting farmers and agriculture, in general.  Along with this needs to come stricter enforcement of erosion control practices for those enrolled in the farm subsidy program from the local NRCS and FSA offices if government payments are also tied to compliance as they should be.  These are the thoughts of a long time farmer and soil conservation advocate.  I hope to hear back from several of you.